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July 21, 2009 6:29 PM   Subscribe

Why hip-hop sucks in 2009. by Dr. Lawyer Indian Chief of FreeDarko

I thought it would be fun to write an article about the wackness of current hip-hop that makes a bunch of overgeneralizations and fails to name names in certain cases where it wouldn’t be politically beneficial to do so. I could give a million disclaimers, but instead I’ll give just one: You will not meet a bigger rap fan than me, and that is why I feel so strongly about this shit.
posted by AceRock (113 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
in b4 <s>in 2009</s>
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 6:31 PM on July 21, 2009


... It's the money?
posted by dunkadunc at 6:32 PM on July 21, 2009 [25 favorites]


> Here’s an interesting experiment: Pull out your Ice Cube and Paris albums from the Bush I presidency and listen to their anti-prez raps. Shit makes waaaaaaaaaaaaaay more sense and is oddly far more topical than any political rap produced in the past ten years.

Fuck A War by The Geto Boys is so applicable to both Gulf Wars that after the first time I heard it I had to look it up to be able to tell when it was released.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:36 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Blue Scholars Blink and Blue Scholars Back Home are both pretty solid on that tip as well.
posted by yeloson at 6:45 PM on July 21, 2009


(note to self: be more careful w/copy paste when lazy w/html)
posted by yeloson at 6:46 PM on July 21, 2009


This reads kind of like standard "the mainstream sucks" to me. Not to be down on it, because it's interesting in some ways for sure, but it seems like you could switch out some proper nouns and terms and be talking about any genre. Of course I'm not really deep into hippity hop but I'm assuming if you look hard enough you can always find some raw/exciting stuff that gets you off no matter the drama. Why music criticism sucks in xxxx? Nostalgia.
posted by palidor at 6:47 PM on July 21, 2009


Ooh I know this one... because it sucked in 2008 and nothing much has changed.
posted by pompomtom at 6:47 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


No matter the drama! Or genre, perhaps.
posted by palidor at 6:48 PM on July 21, 2009


Why [critic's favorite music genre] sucks in [whatever year it is]:

Because [music critic] is getting old.
posted by The World Famous at 6:50 PM on July 21, 2009 [8 favorites]


6) Lack of samples

Very true. A lot of it has to do with copyright law getting way out of hand.

I think hip hop has simply passed its prime like any genre of music does. Blues turned into B.B. King, the Stones abandoned straight-up rock for syncopated disco, etc etc. Wu Tang and Public Enemy weren't selling like Lil' Wayne does now. It has to be produced and packaged to the lowest brow which happens to yield the highest profit margin. Hip hop needs a new voice that isn't auto-tuned.
posted by ageispolis at 6:51 PM on July 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think the benefit for me of not being heavily into hip hop is that I can discover older stuff and just be amazed regardless of when it came out. I mean I'm not all that concerned about what's going on in 2009 outside of a few artists. But then it's also like, wow, Wu Tang is awesome! Has anyone heard Liquid Swords??

But it's like that with any genre I'm not obsessive about. I think if you write a music blog or if music is related to your job you'll find many things to be frustrated about because you can't really see the forest for the trees.
posted by palidor at 6:56 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think hip hop has simply passed its prime like any genre of music does. Blues turned into B.B. King

What did you just say about B. B. King representing the blues passing its prime?

I get that you think hip hop has passed its prime, and I don't necessarily disagree with that point, given my particular affinity for It Takes A Nation Of Millions. But careful what you say about B. B. King, man. That's a pretty ignorant comment.

Hip hop needs a new voice that isn't auto-tuned.

Hear hear.

In the war between rap and dance music, dance music is winning. I'm not going to say the war is over, but rap is barely breathing compared to dance music. Why they ever got so separated baffles me.
posted by The World Famous at 6:58 PM on July 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


Aesop Rock's song None Shall Pass was startlingly fresh for me- it had an almost Boards of Canada sound to it, but at the same time it was hip-hop. However, they don't play Aesop Rock at the bro-dude clubs.

As far as the mainstream is concerned, I haven't heard any good hip-hop put out in about forever, as autotuned club rap is where the money's at these days. My guess is that a new, hybridized kind of hip-hop is going to emerge and breathe new life into the music, but it could be a few years.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:59 PM on July 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


Is this where I link to my favorite local hip hop group Muamin Collective and their new album World B. Free?
posted by sciurus at 7:00 PM on July 21, 2009


Man I thought that was a cool article. Maybe not spot on but refreshing to hear.
posted by In Heaven at 7:03 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why Hip-Hop Sucks in 96
posted by smackfu at 7:05 PM on July 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


Interesting take that this writer has. Not really any coherent conclusion though, other than the quality of hip-hop has declined, which wouldn't get much argument anywhere. Most of the music that the guy's passionate about predates No Way Out, which in my opinion is when rap started going really heavy-duty mainstream and when it coincidentally started to wipe out in terms of quality music. But then again, I'm getting old, too, so what does my opinion matter?
posted by blucevalo at 7:06 PM on July 21, 2009


Hip Hop has always sucked.

And get the hell off my lawn!
posted by pjern at 7:10 PM on July 21, 2009


Given 6, it's funny how Endtroducing was 100% sampled.
posted by ifandonlyif at 7:13 PM on July 21, 2009


people in the street eatin' chicken & meat
posted by jcruelty at 7:16 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thing is, that was what was made Endtroducing so awesome. I love me some DJ Shadow.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:16 PM on July 21, 2009


Lord Wolf Presents: The Perpetual Article or Blog Entry of This Type, Good For All Kinds of Music

I think part of the problem with [insert name of genre here] is that there's so much more of it nowadays than there used to be. I can remember when you were hard-pressed to find a radio station that had even as much as a special programming block dedicated to playing [genre] for a few hours. (College and high school stations were your best bet.)

Also, at the record store, the section devoted to [genre] was pitifully small, and they would inexplicably lag the national release date of even [genre] stars by a few weeks.

Nowadays, there are terrestrial stations, tv stations, satellite stations and Internet stations dedicated to [genre], and you can download just about any song at any time from any artist. As a result, there are so many more people producing [genre] songs, the signal gets lost against the backdrop of a metric fuckton of noise.

It's still possible to find good stuff, but, I have so many more distractions in my life now, it's hard to find time to explore and locate the good stuff. I guess I sometimes mistake this difficulty in wading through the crap to find good stuff with a true scarcity of good stuff. But I bet it's really overall the same as it was when I was younger as far as the quality of the top artists.
End Article

Seriously, I agree with a lot of what he said, especially the parts about the fire that used to inform a lot of hip-hop back in the day. A lot of it is played way too safe nowadays. But I listen to a lot of Felt and Murs' and Slug's individual stuff; I also can't get enough of Lupe Fiasco. I think they and similar artists are carrying the torch pretty nicely. There're still gems out there.
posted by lord_wolf at 7:20 PM on July 21, 2009 [15 favorites]


Hip hop snuck up on me in the 1980s and then pretty much exploded in 1987-88 when a new roommate turned out to be a DJ with a passion for Public Enemy, KRS-1, NWA etc. No doubt, this period was a renaissance in much the same way that rock had one in the mid-1960s (Beatles, Stones, Cream, Who, Hendrix etc).

But shit changes in 20 years. Rock was certainly nowhere in the mid-1980s. Hair metal anyone? Yeah, the deep indie-punk underground was definitely happening (and laying the groundwork for some big cool changes to come) and REM and U2 sold lots of records, but it was certainly no 1967.

Hip-hop, I'm thinking, is in much the same state today. The good news then is the equivalent Pixies, Sonic Youth etc are definitely out there and starting to lay the ground work for some BIG NEW BEAUTIFUL RELEVANT THING.

I certainly hope so.
posted by philip-random at 7:22 PM on July 21, 2009


I remember seeing the video for Midnight in a Perfect World for the first time and not knowing what to do afterwards because I didn't have a car so I couldn't go out and buy the album immediately.
posted by ifandonlyif at 7:23 PM on July 21, 2009 [8 favorites]


Hello! I would like to be signed up for your e-mail list! Please notify me when FreeDarko puts out a collaborative book regarding the current state of hip hop, but only if it meets the same caliber level as their Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac. Until then, I will not be as excited, and ANY posts before that time will only leave me slightly crestfallen.

Respectfully yours.
posted by redsparkler at 7:28 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Did anyone else notice that DJ Shadow and Simon Pegg look like long-lost twins?
posted by dunkadunc at 7:30 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


A while back Joey asked me for my top ten albums of the century, and I could only come up with 5/6:

None of them "Blazing Arrow." Fail.

The problem is that this guy listens to awful rappers, and then complains he hears nothing but awful rap. It's painful, like watching a thirty year old trying to figure out why he no longer likes boy-bands, but who refuses to change the dial when the newest one comes on. There's a whole world outside the mainstream. Go listen to some of it.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:30 PM on July 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


I really think hip-hop was in a Golden Age in the early 90s, just before Gangsta broke big.

You could say I'm just saying that because that was the time I was in high school. But then rock music has always been my favorite genre, and I think rock music from that time was absolutely fucking awful.
posted by drjimmy11 at 7:47 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wanted to bash this guy right off the bat for only being able to name 6 great releases (Company Flow? Aesop Rock?) but it turned out to be interesting and thoughtful...thanks for the post...I'm checking out of bunch of artists he named I'd never heard of and that's always a good thing.
posted by vito90 at 7:47 PM on July 21, 2009


Which is not to say there is nothing good today. Slap*Happy is right, I'm sure it's out there. I for one admit I don't often have the time or patience to dig for it.
posted by drjimmy11 at 7:48 PM on July 21, 2009


He's pretty hard on The Roots, but I think they're making some of the most interesting music right now, regardless of genre. Same with Mos Def with Black Jack Johnson, bringing live band elements in.

He's obviously really well-versed and passionate, but he's not aging gracefully. Times change and he wants it to stop.
posted by letitrain at 8:01 PM on July 21, 2009


But then rock music has always been my favorite genre, and I think rock music from [early 90s] was absolutely fucking awful.

Hear hear. That's right around the time that I gave up and started listening to the dead-end alleyways of FM classic rock (Van Halen, etc, ad nauseum). I had grown up on Top 40 music and it went to utter shit by 1989. I wasn't very sophisticated and had no idea what the hell to listen to, and had no idea how to find the good stuff. FM radio and their sucky 100-song playlists had their stranglehold on me until the Web showed up and I started finding stuff I liked through that medium. I'm seriously illiterate about rap and hip hop and have no interest in all the mainstream crap, but a few years ago I heard Deltron 3030 and was like "whoa".
posted by crapmatic at 8:16 PM on July 21, 2009


good album from q-tip
good album from mia
good album from scarface
good album from tanya morgan
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:24 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


What did you just say about B. B. King representing the blues passing its prime?

I'm not downplaying his immense talent or anything, but his style and the era of which he was most famous was well after blues' formative years. Similarly, there's amazing hip hop artists now still making music past the "raw" years of their genre's beginnings. I guess it comes down to whether you think the golden years of Blues was pre or post war...

In the war between rap and dance music, dance music is winning. I'm not going to say the war is over, but rap is barely breathing compared to dance music. Why they ever got so separated baffles me.

Rap needs dance music now. Look at "Stronger". Kanye pretty much had to rerelease a Daft Punk song in order to churn out a hit. Lil Wayne's upcoming album in August is a rock album. Now that's just crazy.
posted by ageispolis at 8:33 PM on July 21, 2009


good album from k'naan
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:35 PM on July 21, 2009


I don't know what you guys are going on about. Rap is just fine
posted by P.o.B. at 8:37 PM on July 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


Pffft, just because we don't Superman no mo, don't mean we don't SPIDERMAN DAT HO!
posted by 31d1 at 8:42 PM on July 21, 2009


Since no one has said it yet, "You kids get off my lawn!"

Seriously, I can see what the guy is saying and it pulls a lot of heartstrings but, in essence, the article is saying "change..../shudder...bad!"
posted by Democritus at 8:44 PM on July 21, 2009


The early part of this decade had great hip hop and this guy is being either disingenuous or daft when he says he can only name 5 out 6 hip hop records since 2000 that fucking rock.

Hip Hop was fine up until the release of Get Rich or Die Tryin'. After that release, hip hop entered its death spiral. Of course correlation and causation and all that, but hell, even a few short years before that we got Supreme Clientele and The Fix and and The Lost Tapes and so on. It was no 94-96, but had a nice run of certified classics. But something happened around the release of GRODT and hip hop just start to die a slow and pathetic death. It's gotten so bad that people don't realize Kanye can't flow for shit. I mean, WTF?
posted by milarepa at 8:44 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm sick of all these people who think smart music is good music. Look this is what happened after sampling ended people began to look for different ways of making a track interesting. Autotune is one, Live music and stealing the musical style from rock and roll is the other.

The entire process of making a track is different. Instead of a producer making a track and an artist spitting on it and that being the track. What there doing now is taking the track and almost re-making it so the voice and the beat are syncopated and that really doesn't lend it self to lots of vocal complexity in terms of wordplay. But it does make for some enjoyable music that actually makes you feel something at the end of it.
posted by Rubbstone at 8:47 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


good album from brother ali
good album from black milk
good album from the alchemist
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:49 PM on July 21, 2009


What did you just say about B. B. King representing the blues passing its prime?

I'm not downplaying his immense talent or anything, but his style and the era of which he was most famous was well after blues' formative years.

I think we're talking past each other here. There's a world of difference between a genre's "formative years" and that genre's "prime." I think the hip hop world is a pretty good example of this, where I don't think anyone would argue that the rap of the late 70s and early 80s, or even the rap of the mid to late 80s, was rap's "prime," though much of it could fairly be described as hip hop's "formative years."

Blues' formative years saw artists like Robert Johnson and Blind Lemon Jefferson. But B. B. King's 1970s records and performances were part of the sweet spot of Blues' "prime."

To say that B. B. King is an example of the Blues being past its prime seems to me a lot like saying that The Chronic is an example of Rap being past its prime, when in reality, it is one of its highest points (no pun intended).
posted by The World Famous at 8:49 PM on July 21, 2009


Since no one has said it yet, "You kids get off my lawn!"

Seriously, I can see what the guy is saying and it pulls a lot of heartstrings but, in essence, the article is saying "change..../shudder...bad!"


If you're arguing that hip hop is as strong and relevant now as it's ever been, I think you're wrong. The reason I say "think" is I have not really been endeavoring to keep up of late, just grabbing various scraps as they come my way. So maybe there is something amazing, earth-shattering, 1987-91 relevant going down that I'm missing ... but if it is, it's keeping a low, low profile. Which is not by any means a bad thing. No culture ever dies if it maintains a strong underground. This probably explains the demise of Polka. Polka lost its underground when the Third Reich went down.

All apologies for those last two sentences there. I have no idea where they came from.
posted by philip-random at 9:00 PM on July 21, 2009


Unfortunately, he starts from a point of "there's no really good hip-hop albums" and moves to a critique of hip-hop as a larger entity. Or at least, that's what it seems he's trying to do. Which is too easy to rebut with "hey what about [insert decent hip-hop album]" and obscures the larger point that the genre of Hip-Hip is in decline, and increasingly irrelevant in a big-picture sort of way.

This doesn't mean there won't be any more good hip-hop albums. But I think we've reached a point where the main impact of hip-hop is in it's influence on mainstream popular music, and not in it's existence as a separate genre. It's not that it got smaller. It's that it finally got big enough to be indistinguishable from the whole.

I don't think lamenting the change in hip-hop is necessarily old guy nostalgia. There's some of that, but is that really so bad? I think if you've put in your time, you've earned a bit of "get off my lawn". I think it can be agreed that hip hop had a "golden age" and for those of us who lived through it, it still glows very brightly in our recent memories. What choice do we have, but to listen to old Ice Cube records and scowl at the young'uns?
posted by billyfleetwood at 9:03 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Kanye name-checking Animal Collective is a good thing. Hip-hop has always been insular and that's why it's gotten stale. I can't wait for the next generation of hip-hop producers to come along, the ones who wear Boris and Cut Copy influences on their sleeves alongside Wu and KRS-1.
posted by naju at 9:11 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


oops
good album from brother ali
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:16 PM on July 21, 2009


If you're arguing that hip hop is as strong and relevant now as it's ever been, I think you're wrong.

philip, I really feel you when you talk about "strong and relevant" because a lot of what made hip-hop (or rap, specifically, since that is what the author is talking about) strong and relevant is that it was talking about issues in a different way than we were used to. The same argument has been made above, about blues, but I'd say a more fitting subject would be punk. It's not necessarily stronger, or as strong, but it certainly is as relevant, since modern R & B is about modern topics. Just because the genre has evolved (and I'm not using "evolved" as a qualitative statement) doesn't mean it's better or worse, it's just different. Just because a lot of rap and R&B has mainstream currents doesn't mean "it's all crap".
posted by Democritus at 9:17 PM on July 21, 2009


He's pretty hard on The Roots
i admit to being a part of the accurately described "weird trustafarian/nuyorican army" that likes the roots. they are way fun live, but even i think that their last few albums have been kind of stagnant. time will show how hub's departure will impact their sound. the blog author is right on about black thought needing another voice to bounce off of to get into his zone, and no one has really stepped up to replace malik b or rahzel. ?uestlove is the lead musician of the band and he is best when he focuses on one thing. once the soulquarian phase started, he started spreading himself thin. i do respect how accessible ?uestlove has been to his audience over at okayplayer, and for his part on the last al green record.

The point is that Jay and Nas became de facto kingz after Biggie died for no real reason other than there was a throne to fill.
totally agree with blog author's comment. thought that there would be more disagreement here.

dead prez et al. made the hip-hop equivalent of Farenheit 9-11
ouch.
posted by the aloha at 9:22 PM on July 21, 2009


Metafilter: sick of all these people who think smart music is good music.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:24 PM on July 21, 2009


Maybe someone should mail this guy some Jedi Mind Tricks (Violent By Design or Legacy of Blood, preferably), or some Aesop Rock... I'm a metal dude for the most part but even I can find good stuff.
posted by Dark Messiah at 9:37 PM on July 21, 2009


Aesop Rock, Cannibal Ox, DITC, MF DOOM, Hieroglyphics, People Under the Stairs, etc. etc.

I could go on, but hip hop is hardly dead. You just have to have taste.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:53 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


The hipster media loves to tout black artists like OJ Da Juiceman, Max B, Young Jeezy, and (gulp) Soulja Boy* while simultaneously engaging in ancestor worship toward Animal Collective, Radiohead, and Arcade Fire. This phenomenon is well-documented, though it is commonly misattributed to hipster obsession with irony (and liking dumb hawdcore crunktastic music = irony in this case). I think it goes beyond irony though, because if you ask any of these cheerleaders to say why they like that type of music, they will give you a very clear response that will commonly include something about swag, presence, charisma, or braggadocio. These are codewords; I’ll let you fill in the rest....

I think that this is exactly right. Also what he said about Dead Prez (and KRS1, for that matter).

On the whole, however, he's wrong. There's a lot of good hip-hop being made right now (some links above by EMRJKC94). It's not being made by the Fast Life Youngstas or by the G-Spot Boys, but it's being made. I thought that, for example, Blu & Exile's Below the Heavens was one of the best albums released last year. Ghostface is right up on top of his game. While the last Doom record was uneven, it's hard to argue that he hasn't blown the doors off the genre in the last six or seven years. The Roots haven't made an album that's moved me for some time, but they are in residence, playing kickass live music every Tuesday in New York City. Etcetera etcetera etcetera.
posted by kosem at 9:53 PM on July 21, 2009


For my money, cannibal ox released the best hip hop record of the aughts in The Cold Vein.

It's not on his list, so fuck him.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:23 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


So the guy reached the point where, for him, new things suck compared to old things... let's mourn for him and move on.
posted by Huck500 at 10:32 PM on July 21, 2009


i know why hip hop sucks in 2009 - it's the same reason why rock and roll, country, pop and $whatever suck in 2009 - people will buy (or download, or at least listen to) anything and by god, anything is what we're getting

good art requires good audiences
posted by pyramid termite at 11:04 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't know what you guys are going on about. Rap is just fine

I'm so turned on right now.
posted by Netzapper at 11:04 PM on July 21, 2009


Periodically I put it down and leave it in my CD rack for months, so I can listen to some new stuff and try to figure out if anything topped it. But then I pick up Midnight Marauders again, and the answer is always the same: nope. This album came out in 1993, and yes it's a matter of taste, but I've been waiting for 16 years for something better to come out, something that moves me more, but the only thing that even came close was probably Black on Both Sides, and that's not much newer, is it?
posted by 1adam12 at 11:38 PM on July 21, 2009


ageispolis: I think hip hop has simply passed its prime like any genre of music does.

billyfleetwood: …the genre of Hip-Hip is in decline, and increasingly irrelevant in a big-picture sort of way…

I disagree firmly.

Hip hop is changing, yes. Every music changes. But what you say, ageispolis, about any genre of music passing its prime is patently untrue, I think, and illustrates the central mistake that we all make now, the mistake that ironically is part of what's killing it.

The ancient Greeks memorized, recited, and revered Homer's Odyssey and Iliad for two thousand years. The classicist guys seem to be able to convince themselves that this was because of ‘the structure of ancient cultures’ or ‘a repressive society’ or ‘the relative dearth of cultural memes’ or something like that, but as someone who's loved Homer and actually seen him as a living writer, somebody who still matters, I know that Homer lasted that long because he was truly great and wise, because generation after generation understood that he was worth keeping around and saw something fantastic in it. It's the same with Shakespeare and so many of the other great ones. And here we are, just barely thirty years on, talking about how Hip Hop is in decline?

Why? Nostalgia. We Americans have the keenest, most ridiculously powerful sense of nostalgia on the planet. I think that's because we're constantly burying things before they're dead. We have this dark, looming sense of some metaphysical flow of h i s t o r y, this big river of the human spirit that we all picture ourselves as part of.

That's what makes us say things like “this style of music is past its prime”, whereas if we said those words to an ancient Greek he would have no comprehension of what our words meant. ‘Past its prime?’ he'd say. ‘Is music like wine? Does it start to rot and turn to vinegar after too long? Isn't it true that there's just music—good music and bad music, beautiful music and ugly music, sometimes even great music—but isn't it all music just the same?’ We'd have to respond: yeah, sure, but we didn't mean the style of music itself but only the examples of it currently being produced. We don't mean that that old shit, the awesome shit, has become less awesome; only that it doesn't seem possible to make it like that anymore, and nobody seems to know how. This would also be puzzling to the Greek. ‘Ah—so you've lost your instruments? Have your instrument-makers all died off? Or perhaps the few people who knew this art have died, and those currently alive have no way to listen to their works?’

You see where this is going, right? Hip hop resides in a style of music, and an ongoing, living culture. Sure, sometimes the music that's played on the radio sucks, but recognizing that is a far cry from doing the kind of research and discovery that would be necessary to claim that the society of hip hop, and even the style it's represented by, is absolutely absent from the world today. We visualize this as some big force, some ineluctable tide that's pushing us all along; and we feel powerless when it seems like something's passed us by. Remember Will Faulkner's watchword: “The past isn't dead—it isn't even past!” We imagine that it's this force that carries us to places we couldn't go on our own; but if anybody got to those places in the past, I can guarantee you that they brought themselves there, and anybody who wants to can do the same.

Let's simplify it. What do you need for hip hop?

(1) A microphone.
(2) Two turntables.
(3) Heart.

Are any of these things suddenly beyond our reach? Is it impossible to buy microphones or turntables any more? I have a feeling that we're just afraid that we won't be able to manage #3.

But, again, Nas sittin' in his bedroom in '92, KRS-One walkin' his block South Bronx in '86, Afrika Bambaataa hangin' on the corner listening to funk records with the kids and the street rats in '75—these guys weren't riding some mystical wave of history; they were just creating, man, making music that made them feel good. The 'important' records, movies, books, etc. never really matter; what matters if it's good, if it has heart, and those things are timeless. People say ‘it's dead’ any time nostalgia gets too intimidating for them and they worry that they can't live up to history; but there's nothing you have to live up to. All you have to do is live.

We Americans can get very narrow in our definitions of what used to be our music—but Hip hop is global now. Really. Right now, somewhere in Belgium or China or Thailand or even Canada (hey, stranger things have happened) there's a kid up in his bedroom listening to Criminal Minded or Paul's Boutique or Bigger And Deffer or Illmatic or Da Chronic and thinking about how long it'll take him to save up for a couple of Technics turntables. I refuse to believe that Hip hop is in decline when there are people like DJ Kentaro and the guys from Birdy Nam Nam out there in the world tearin' it up.
posted by koeselitz at 11:38 PM on July 21, 2009 [35 favorites]


pyramid termite: good art requires good audiences

We're out here, man. Always have been, always will be.

Don't believe the hype—the kids are alright.
posted by koeselitz at 11:47 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


koeselitz: Favourited so hard.
posted by jaduncan at 12:16 AM on July 22, 2009


Um.....shit.
Thanks koeselitz.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 12:56 AM on July 22, 2009


1adam12: This album came out in 1993, and yes it's a matter of taste, but I've been waiting for 16 years for something better to come out, something that moves me more, but the only thing that even came close was probably Black on Both Sides, and that's not much newer, is it?

Hey, I like Midnight Marauders as much as the next guy, and Black On Both Sides is a good record—but A Prince Among Thieves came out the same year (1999) and is better than both of those albums. Sorry; it's the truth.
posted by koeselitz at 1:22 AM on July 22, 2009


Hell, Illmatic came out a year after Midnight Marauders, and it's better, too.
posted by koeselitz at 1:35 AM on July 22, 2009


I think the benefit for me of not being heavily into hip hop is that

...I don't have to listen to it.


The ancient Greeks memorized, recited, and revered Homer's Odyssey and Iliad for two thousand years.


So true. There were lots of ancient Greeks around in the middle ages, reciting Homer and hanging with their bitches at the club. Many believe that this pervasive and long lasting oral tradition was the true origin of rap.
posted by Sparx at 1:52 AM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why hip-hop sucks in 2009.

Wait, let me guess: because the form is so diluted that even Buzz Aldrin is in on it?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:23 AM on July 22, 2009


Though Justinian closed the School of Athens in A.D. 529, Christians continued to be educated mainly in the pagan Greek tradition, and in particular the ancient form of primary education, memorizing Homer, persisted. ... That the importance of Homer was undiminished in the Christian Byzantine empire is attested, among many other illustrations, by the career of Eustathius (died ca. 1195-1199), who produced 1,555 pages of commentary on the Iliad and nearly 800 pages of commentary on the Odyssey. Source

Of course they weren't really "Ancient Greeks" at this time.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:10 AM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, Rubbstone, I'm sick of all these people who think dumb music is good music.
posted by grubi at 6:33 AM on July 22, 2009


koeslitz, your analogy would be even stronger if you acknowledged the fact that the Iliad and Odyssey were originally an oral myth cycle, repeated, embellished, and edited by bards (freestylers? DJs?) for centuries before the traditional date of ~700BCE. Homer didn't exist, at least not as a single author of the greatest story ever. But the Trojan War myths certainly did, in a way not dissimilar to the constant sampling, tweaking, remixing of modern music.
posted by oinopaponton at 6:55 AM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Listening to Midnight in a Perfect World while watching this time-lapse video of hot air balloons makes for an oddly soothing combination.

Also, koeselitz makes some great points, but the most treasured poets of our time aren't writing epic poetry. More people tune in to the superbowl than to symphonies. Genres have their heydays, their high points, their masters. The ancient Greeks had a finely tuned sense of genre and nostalgia. Almost every city-state tried to lay claim to Homer at some point or another, because they were keenly aware that his works were the gold standard for epic poetry. I'm sure a grizzled old Athenian of Pericles' time would grumble, "That Plato is quite a rabble-rouser, but none of our modern poets have the gift that Homer did!"

But maybe it wasn't just Homer's gift. Maybe it was also the time in which he was creating. We have pen and paper, and indeed ears and voices, the only means Homer required, but a modern epic poem has yet to have the same impact on our culture as the Odyssey did for Ancient Greece. Is it that we moderns just don't have the heart for it?

Maybe a young Virgil's going to come along and redefine the genre of epic poetry in a way that resonates across society, but this feels unlikely in the same way that it's hard to imagine any modern classical composer attaining the popularity of Mozart. Poets and composers have the same means they've always had, which must mean that the times have changed and the heydays of certain genres has passed. This doesn't mean it's impossible to write an epic or create a symphony - it just means it won't be received in the same way it might have been in another time.

I know very little about hip hop. It's possible that the best is yet to come, but it's perfectly natural for people to be nostalgic for the greats, and to worry that they may never have the impact of Wu-Tang, because it's entirely likely they never will. They might produce something great, but the time is slightly out of joint.
posted by Devika at 7:06 AM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Don't worry. It's doing fine.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:04 AM on July 22, 2009


Wait, let me guess: because the form is so diluted that even Buzz Aldrin is in on it?

Yeah, because Barney Rubble rapping in Fruity Pebbles commercials in the 80s weren't just as bad or worse.
posted by The World Famous at 8:43 AM on July 22, 2009


The true source for fun hip hop these days is all in mashups. Take a hip hop song with good lyrics, strip out the crappy background track, and lay it smooth over something to which people can actually dance.

Dance floor gold, every time.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 8:47 AM on July 22, 2009


um... so hey... koeselitz said what needed to be said, huh?

honestly, I sometimes think that radio hip hop right now is where radio rock and roll was in the 80s. all production gimmickry and shallow danceability. but that doesn't mean we don't have our indie bands doing what indie rock bands did in the 80s. just cause we're inundated with the hip hop equivalent of A-ha and Men Without Hats doesn't mean we don't have our Pixies and Sonic Youth out there doing things right.
posted by shmegegge at 8:53 AM on July 22, 2009


Sorry; it's the truth.
We don't get to talk about the truth when we're talking about opinions. I've never been a Nas fan, and that's not something I feel the need to apologize for. I think Black on Both Sides is a better album. It's saying something, it has lyrical dexterity and moments that just make me laugh out loud at the pure pleasure of the rhymes, but it also gets a party moving in a way that Illmatic just doesn't, and never did even when it came out.

I won't say anything bad about Prince Paul, because I'm not that much of an idiot.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:02 AM on July 22, 2009


But since the spectators are of two kinds- the one free and educated, and the other a vulgar crowd composed of mechanics, laborers, and the like- there ought to be contests and exhibitions instituted for the relaxation of the second class also. And the music will correspond to their minds; for as their minds are perverted from the natural state, so there are perverted modes and highly strung and unnaturally colored melodies. A man receives pleasure from what is natural to him, and therefore professional musicians may be allowed to practice this lower sort of music before an audience of a lower type. But, for the purposes of education, as I have already said, those modes and melodies should be employed which are ethical, such as the Dorian, as we said before; though we may include any others which are approved by philosophers who have had a musical education. The Socrates of the Republic is wrong in retaining only the Phrygian mode along with the Dorian, and the more so because he rejects the flute; for the Phrygian is to the modes what the flute is to musical instruments- both of them are exciting and emotional. Poetry proves this, for Bacchic frenzy and all similar emotions are most suitably expressed by the flute, and are better set to the Phrygian than to any other mode. The dithyramb, for example, is acknowledged to be Phrygian, a fact of which the connoisseurs of music offer many proofs, saying, among other things, that Philoxenus, having attempted to compose his Mysians as a dithyramb in the Dorian mode, found it impossible, and fell back by the very nature of things into the more appropriate Phrygian. All men agree that the Dorian music is the gravest and manliest. And whereas we say that the extremes should be avoided and the mean followed, and whereas the Dorian is a mean between the other modes, it is evident that our youth should be taught the Dorian music.

aristotle

That's what makes us say things like “this style of music is past its prime”, whereas if we said those words to an ancient Greek he would have no comprehension of what our words meant.

i think it's obvious from this quote that aristotle thought music could in fact change, as he was worried about the music of the "vulgar crowd" and its possible influence

the idea that things change or were better back in a certain time is hardly a new one
posted by pyramid termite at 9:30 AM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't want to speak for koeselitz, but here I go. actually, I DO want to speak for him, but bear in mind that I might be misrepresenting him.

I think what he was saying wasn't "music doesn't change" or that the greeks wouldn't understand how fast our musical tastes change. I think what he was saying is that the greeks believed (some of them at least) in an immutable character to musical types, one that doesn't change so long as people exist to make music from it. they would find the idea that hip hop has lost characteristics from its origin perplexing, because the possibility is always there to return, should an individual or individuals choose to do so. the trends that we sometimes perceive as unavoidable natural occurances would seem, to them, to be the result of human action. The idea that "hip hop has lost its flava" (quoting no one there.) could possibly be seen as an illusion. what has changed is our access to hip hop of that character.

which is a convoluted way of saying "the market has changed, hip hop's roots and original values remain."

koeselitz, correct me if I'm misunderstanding you.
posted by shmegegge at 9:59 AM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


another way of saying it, because I'm being hopelessly imprecise: we, as modern listeners, are tempted to say "man, hip hop isn't what it used to be. you can't make hip hop any more without autotuning and prohibitive production values." whereas you could instead say "hip hop can still be what it used to be, or an evolution of what it used to be, without the autotuning and production values, because we still have turntables and MCs with vision."
posted by shmegegge at 10:01 AM on July 22, 2009


HEY BUT WAIT ALL MY WHITE MIDDLE CLASS NERDS LUV DA COLD VEIN

Look, dude's got some excellent points, and a lot of you like bullshit rap. His points are a lot more salient if you understand the strain of hip hop he's lionizing, the '88 "hardcore" rap. It has fallen off, and for pretty much the reasons that he mentions, and a large part of why what seems like the predominant MeFite audience doesn't get that is because they're part of the problem.

The B.B. King mention upthread was pretty apt, actually. By the '70s, blues had collapsed and King had turned into a tourist attraction for white college kids. King had moved away from the post-war blues, added a horn section and emphasized virtuoso playing—arguing that blues peaked in the '70s is like arguing that Yngwie Malmstein was the pinnacle of metal. The blues got reduced to patronizing old black men in a search for authenticity, and while white people were the broader audience, that often ignores the black nostalgia that changed the form too.

Similarly, you can see the shift in perception of girl groups through the revivalists like the Pipettes, whose music ignores a lot of the danger (teen pregnancy, domestic violence) present in Motown girl group music. As the form becomes familiar, the sense of rebellion and energy wanes. This article did a good job of talking about some of the important trends that have contributed to that.
posted by klangklangston at 10:07 AM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Can i say that this thread is about a brazilian times better than the typical mefi hip-hop threads without jinxing it?
posted by lord_wolf at 10:18 AM on July 22, 2009


By the '70s, blues had collapsed and King had turned into a tourist attraction for white college kids. King had moved away from the post-war blues, added a horn section and emphasized virtuoso playing—arguing that blues peaked in the '70s is like arguing that Yngwie Malmstein was the pinnacle of metal.

The audience for blues peaked in its "authenticity" to the art form long before the '70s, sure. But I would argue that the art form itself peaked long after its "authentic" audience had left the building.

Yngwie Malmsteen is certainly the peak of something. The aesthetic of Trilogy, if not the production and overall sound, is still pretty pervasive in many circles. Neoclassical arpeggios, sweep picking, and lightning fast harmonic minor riffs are more pervasive now than Van Halen-style tapping, and I don't think Yngwie played any small role in that.

Metal, hip hop, and the blues have had similar arcs, I think. Sabbath, Deep Purple, and other proto-metal of the 70s is like the original delta blues guys, which is like the humble beginnings of rap as an underground art form; the hardcore metal and death metal of the early to mid 80s (together with Priest and Maiden) are like Chicago blues in its youth or the mid-to-late '80s rap of Run DMC, Public Enemy, et al.; Malmsteen and the glam/hair "metal" bands that became the pop music of the late 80s are like the white boy blues of the '70s and early '80s, which are like the pop rap of the early 90s (and all three of those phases included a few really brilliant things among the shiny crap), and then each of them is left to sort of figure itself out going forward.

Metal has had, I think, a significant fragmentation that continued from the pop-ization of Metal to even further compartmentalization of sub-genres, and that has resulted in some pretty brilliant stuff. Blues seems to have gone into a slow burn, with bright spots here and there and an aging '70s white boy mainstream fanbase. Hip hop? Well, it seems to be turning into sort of pop/indie music, with the most visible examples being lowest-common-denominator garbage and an undercurrent of extreme creativity and occasional brilliance (since creative and brilliant are not the same thing).
posted by The World Famous at 10:46 AM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I agree with those of you who complain that he missed some good albums (almost all of which come from earlier in the decade, or are Def Jux/Stones Throw acts, or both). But that doesn't invalidate a pretty strong thesis. Nevertheless, I think dunkadunc (and, by extension, DJ Shadow back in '96) successfully boiled it down even further: it's about the money.

All the points from 3-6 are really outgrowths of that, and I don't agree with 1 and 2. #1: I really don't think that the problem with hip hop is that rapppers are trying to please an invisible white goddess. #2: He's right about The Roots, but if they were hip hop's last hope, then they weren't really a hope, because you need more than that.

Hip hop was great before it became totally mainstream, and now it is VERY HARD to find good new stuff, and IMPOSSIBLE to find great new stuff. For me, the last great mind-blowing hip hop album was El-P's I'll Sleep When You're Dead. I still listen to "Tasmanian Pain Coaster" and "Poisonville Kids No Wins" on an almost daily basis.
posted by Edgewise at 10:51 AM on July 22, 2009


Slow burn, occasional bright spots, aging fanbase? People have been saying that about jazz for years. I think you could say it about pretty much any genre of pop music.
posted by box at 11:00 AM on July 22, 2009


When was hip hop not totally mainstream? I grew up as a suburban white kid in the Midwest in the 80s, watching cartoons in commercials and PSAs rapping at me. As far as I can tell, hip hop has been totally mainstream since right about the time Tougher Than Leather came out. Before that, it was just mostly mainstream.
posted by The World Famous at 11:09 AM on July 22, 2009


Being lectured on rap by someone who professes to love Dre and Prodigy is about ninety degrees past irony. No subsequent cracks about White girls and Jay Z will save you.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:29 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't think I would use commercials as a measure of when or how mainstream hip hop is, otherwise we could said hand jiving was mainstream with those old McD's commercials.

If I were to chart hip hop's progression to a large mainstream audience it would probably start in the mid to early 90's. Several things happened around that time, not in any specific order: Cypress Hill went on tour with white rock bands and their albums went from murder, murder, murder to smoke, smoke, smoke weed. Dr Dre dropped the Chronic. The new non-gangster sounds of Heiroglyphics and to a larger part The Pharcyde came out of Cali. Tupac didn't sell out, but there is a bit of a departure from his earlier albums content and the stuff he made for ($$$) Death Row/Suge Knight. Jay Z, Biggie Smalls & Sean Puffy Combs made their whole appearance based on nice cars, Italian suits, expensive drinks, yachts, etc., etc.. Another act that blew open the doors to large audience was Master P. It wasn't until his sixth album(97) that, like Tupac, he found a formula that people really like with "Make 'Em Say Uhh!". To this day I have no idea why that bullshit was popular, but he managed to turn that success into multi-deal ventures that did really well for him. There has also been a slow progression of putting rappers on film. Ice-T (who can't act beyond his own mannerisms) Ice Cube, etc.. Don't get me started on that shitty Wolverine movie with Will I Am.
That isn't a definitive list at all. There has been many things that have led to this point and it would've been inevitable anyway. But up until the early 90's you only had pop rap break out acts like MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice that had mass appeal. Granted Beastie Boys have long been in frat boys party rotation but I think they're more the exception than the rule.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:47 PM on July 22, 2009


I guess I also forgot to mention there was a definite blurring of the lines between what Hip-Hop was and what R&B was at the time. Especially with acts like Mary J Blige and TLC claiming to be Hip-Hop which at the time they clearly were not. Also the appropriation of the Hip-Hop by MTV and using it for things it wasn't didn't help matters either. Then again there used to be hard core rap and then MTV started calling it Gangster Rap to the chagrin of many people.

And no I don't know what the definition of R&B is.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:59 PM on July 22, 2009


Strictly hardcore tracks, not a new-jack swing.
posted by box at 1:02 PM on July 22, 2009


R&B? Rap and bullshit.
posted by box at 1:03 PM on July 22, 2009


"I don't think I would use commercials as a measure of when or how mainstream hip hop is, otherwise we could said hand jiving was mainstream with those old McD's commercials."

Hand jive peaked in the '80s.
posted by klangklangston at 1:31 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


pyramid termite: i think it's obvious from this quote that aristotle thought music could in fact change, as he was worried about the music of the "vulgar crowd" and its possible influence

the idea that things change or were better back in a certain time is hardly a new one


You know me too well when you're quoting Aristotle against me.

I agreed that the music can change—but Aristotle isn't saying that the basics were changing. He doesn't say that the Dorian, Phrygian and Lydian modes themselves change; they remain what they are. And it's always possible to use any one of them.

I guess I'm just arguing against some mystical Hegelian sense (which seems to me to be common nowadays) that history is this dialectical flow that none of us can resist. Maybe I'm worried or annoyed that that sense is more than Hegelian, it's historicist, meaning it gives us the sinking feeling that the stuff of the past, the stuff that we love, can never be recreated. Of course not, but we have our own powers to create.

1adam12: We don't get to talk about the truth when we're talking about opinions. I've never been a Nas fan, and that's not something I feel the need to apologize for. I think Black on Both Sides is a better album. It's saying something, it has lyrical dexterity and moments that just make me laugh out loud at the pure pleasure of the rhymes, but it also gets a party moving in a way that Illmatic just doesn't, and never did even when it came out.

I can agree to disagree, but I think Illmatic has a subtlety to it that's easy to miss; there's so much under the surface there that you have to sit there with your ears pressed to the speaker and your eyes closed to hear. It has the depth and quality of the best hip hop: hardly any choruses, all rhyming, and above all the kinds of rhymes that are filled with the kinds of gems that hide in the beats, lyrical treasures that you discover every time you listen. That's why it's not an easy record in a lot of ways; nobody understands everything Nas is saying the first or second or third time they hear it, though he's quite coherent, but over time you start to uncover the meaning behind the smooth, brilliant flow. DJ Premier says that that moment at 0:20 on “NY State Of Mind” when he mumbles:“uh…I don't know how to start this…” was completely for real; Nas'd just written that lyric a few minutes before in the studio, so he didn't know how he was going to pace it and how it'd flow. And then, after muttering that, he pauses, steps back, and drops the rhyme perfectly, beat for beat—and it's not simple, it's a complex, syncopated beat. And not only that—he flows into a long verse from there, never stopping for a breath and riding his voice through to the break. Completely fresh—no second take.

His voice has that great wheezy quality, especially on the next track, the supreme laid-back jam “Life's A Bitch;” like all of the tracks on this disc, I love this song because it doesn't just lay down a solid groove, it explores every philosophical and sonic possibility of that groove.Life's A Bitch” isn't just a smooth, stoned-out celebration of relaxation in the face of the chaos of the world; it's about what that attitude means, and Nas' verses about the casual blessing of his 20th birthday (he was only 20 when he made this!) are the very definition of that feeling. A friend of mine once pointed out that you can hear in the timbre of the lines he spits that he's just taken up smoking pot; he has the relaxed vibe that approaches lethargy without giving up any of its natural fire or tenacity.

And while every single track deserves pages and pages of adulation, for me the pinnacle has always been the track he did with Q-Tip, “One Love.” There are times when this track still gets me close to tears; it's really an encapsulation of almost everything that hip hop is about, the good and the bad: the pain of poverty, the clash of generations, the experience of betrayal—and the duty to guide young people, this heart that gets communicated, this soul society, and the brotherhood that emerges out of shared suffering. Writing to Born in prison that hearing his mom cry makes him want to murder;vainly trying to tell the kid Shorty Wop that he should watch out for shit rather than start it;making like “a ghost from my projects” and getting away with a pad and pen to think it all over—this is the song about the experience of the ghetto and the perils and possibilities of life in general. I don't believe that there's a better hip hop song anywhere.
posted by koeselitz at 1:33 PM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ooh, ooh, do 'It Ain't Hard to Tell'!
posted by box at 2:03 PM on July 22, 2009


koeselitz, as a lifelong fan of Hip Hop, I love what you wrote, yet I still disagree. I guess if I had to distill my argument down to it's basics, it's this. A great hip hop Album no longer make hip hop great. And there was a time when even the worst of hip hop had value (remember the Rappin Duke?). And the best of hip hop was vital on a level that exceeded it's mere musical value.

I know it's easy to dismiss that as rose-hued nostalgia, but the only reason I probably don't make a better argument for it here is because it's an argument I could go on for days making. This is coming from someone who defines himself purely in the context of Hip Hop, in the same way my Mom might say she's of the Civil Rights generation. (And I do realize that there are many who would find that to be a ridiculous analogy. I'm speaking of the relationship to the thing, not the value of the thing.)
posted by billyfleetwood at 2:24 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


on preview: Koeselitz, i referring to your previous post, not the one I'm just reading now
posted by billyfleetwood at 2:25 PM on July 22, 2009


And there was a time when even the worst of hip hop had value

Dee Dee Ramone thanks you for your endorsement.
posted by shmegegge at 2:27 PM on July 22, 2009


C'mon man. Bringing the last verse of "One Love" into it? totally unfair.

As always this conversation for me turns into a discussion of just how great hip hop can be, which used as an example of my belief that it's can' tbe that great anymore is always kind of weird, and feels disingenuous.

But since you brought up one of my favorite verses in all of music. I like to think of Melle Melle's last verse of "The Message" (which still astonishes me in it's depth and delivery) and that verse from "One Love" almost as opening and finishing chapters in a continuous narrative. There'a a lot of stuff you can throw in the middle, but those two are definitely High water marks for me.

In the context of hiphop today, do you think there is (or could be) music being made that serves the same function of elevating and progressing the culture as a whole the way say, "The Message" did as a song, or RUN DMC did as a group? (or any of a number of verses, songs, albums, or groups that I could mention).

Again, i am totally willing to accept "Old Guy" status and be schooled. But speaking in the context of Hip Hop once being a "living thing" where someone like Rakim could come along and in one verse completely change the parameters of not just the prevailing style,but of the entire concept of what the capabilities and impact of the culture were.

Or is the cake fully baked*, and we're just eating it, debating over how much is still on the plate?

*maybe I should have said "beans fully cooked"?
posted by billyfleetwood at 2:58 PM on July 22, 2009


Well, Rubbstone, I'm sick of all these people who think dumb music is good music.

Just who exactly do you mean?

No one fetishizes stupidity on the other hand plenty of people fetishize intelligence as though its the spice of life that makes all things better. It complexifies things and that can make them more interesting for the analytical portions of the mind. Music can be just as signifigant as an emotional catalyst(particularly when it comes to physicality) and often there is alot if music that froes to smart for you to feel your blood rush to it your feet tap to it.

I feel like if a piece of music can succeed if its fun. If they can bring you out of you shell a little. Make you laugh. Make you feel better than you did 5 minutes ago. There are alot of dumb songs in that catagory.

I'm just not one of those people who believes if the understood all of the words in Ave Maria that would make it more beautiful.
posted by Rubbstone at 2:59 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


billyfleetwood: koeselitz, as a lifelong fan of Hip Hop, I love what you wrote, yet I still disagree. I guess if I had to distill my argument down to it's basics, it's this. A great hip hop Album no longer make hip hop great. And there was a time when even the worst of hip hop had value (remember the Rappin Duke?). And the best of hip hop was vital on a level that exceeded it's mere musical value.

I know it's easy to dismiss that as rose-hued nostalgia, but the only reason I probably don't make a better argument for it here is because it's an argument I could go on for days making. This is coming from someone who defines himself purely in the context of Hip Hop, in the same way my Mom might say she's of the Civil Rights generation. (And I do realize that there are many who would find that to be a ridiculous analogy. I'm speaking of the relationship to the thing, not the value of the thing.)


That's not a ridiculous analogy at all. Hip hop means a lot, at least to me and you, and I think it's fair to say that it's a pretty big part of the civil rights movement.

I'm not saying that there's not a lot of crap out there, or that it doesn't get a lot more play than it should nowadays. Nor am I saying that there isn't awesome music from the past that we all should pay more attention to.

I guess I just meant: when it comes to great music like hip hop, there isn't “the mainstream” or “the charts” or “hip hop today” or anything like that; there's just people. If the society of hip hop is in decline, well, it's nobody's fault but ours; but we can change that a lot more easily than we think. I truly believe that a thousand years from now some Martian kid could pick up a stack of hip hop cds and recreate it for himself the same way it is for me—that he could live hip hop as much as we do. And if he could do it, why can't we?

Just the other day, a bunch of kids from the neighborhood were over at my house; they've been coming over here constantly to use my internet connection so they can check their myspace pages. They're all listening to these new autotune-addicted suckas and this hipster-rap group that's big here in Colorado. So when I heard this, I smiled and dropped on my vinyl of Three Feet High And Rising. And today when they came over, they all said: “hey Jeff, can we listen to that rap music you were playing?”

It's beautiful, I tell ya.
posted by koeselitz at 3:00 PM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


I hate the "Music is getting so much worse now!" attitude, but not nearly as much as I hate the "Music couldn't possibly be getting any worse, it is exactly the same and you are older" attitude. I have been growing slowly more pissed off at pop music released over the last freaking year and I'm 22.
posted by tehloki at 3:20 PM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


No good political hip-hop? Has this guy ever heard any Mr. Lif?

Anyway, in general I think that if you can't find quality hip-hop these days, it's either because you expect it to sound like it did 15-20 years ago or because you're not looking hard enough.
posted by rollbiz at 3:30 PM on July 22, 2009


koeselitz, all you needed to say was he rhymes for the listeners, blunt heads, fly ladies and prisoners.

There's some single verses in Nas' unreleased catalog that eclipse other rapper's whole discographies.
posted by milarepa at 4:50 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's some single verses in Nas' unreleased catalog that eclipse other rapper's whole discographies.

And whole albums in his released catalog that make me think that legalizing weed is probably a really terrible idea.

Not that I don't love Nas. Just, you know...stay in school, kids.

And koeselitz...playing De La for the kids? How am I supposed to maintain my adversarial stance? Well played, my friend...well played.

I think on the positive side, it doesn't really matter what my old ass thinks about Hip Hop, because kids today don't know any different. I was just out in my neighborhood in Brooklyn and the current generation of inner city kids is not looking backwards. From what I can tell they're all practicing for the 2012 X-Games.

A few years ago kids every kid in this neighborhood was into that oversized T, faux-gangster thing that mostly involved standing around trying to look hard. To see them all wearing skinny jeans and spiked belts, working on their ollies and bmx tricks makes me happier than just about anything, because that gangster shit was going nowhere fast. The corner kids are still on the corners, but there's an obvious alternative these days. Especially considering that unlike the suburbs, the cops haven't figured out that they're supposed to be chasing the skater kids away, and nobody has skate-proofed all the stairs and curbs and banks yet.

I see ample evidence everywhere that, good or bad, these kids don't NEED hip hop the way my generation did.
posted by billyfleetwood at 6:09 PM on July 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


And whole albums in his released catalog that make me think that legalizing weed is probably a really terrible idea.

I couldn't agree more. Nas is sort of baffling. His musical missteps would have killed anyone's career. But he made Illmatic, so he's always given a pass.
posted by milarepa at 6:36 PM on July 22, 2009


Also, he chose Fantastic Damage over I'll Sleep when You're dead? What's up with that?
posted by delmoi at 10:10 PM on July 22, 2009


Congratulations on making a great thread out of a crotchety article.

Also, as Mefi's designated Hipster, I want to officially announce that FUN hiphop is back!

(at least in dc: Wale, Diamond District, kid cudi, tabi Bonney)
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:37 AM on July 23, 2009


MORE HIPSTER HOP THAT IS BETTER THAN 99% OF 90s MUSIC

Cadence Weapon
Claire Hux
Busdriver
The Knux

Of course it's thanks to great recent innovations by outkast and kanye and others that stuff like this is getting on. Evolve y'all.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:51 AM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Cadence Weapon? Next you'll be trying to push the new POS album.
posted by Edgewise at 6:51 AM on July 23, 2009


100+ comments and no Sage?

What are you going to say to your grandchildren, when they ask: "where were you when Strange Famous reanimated Hip Hop's bloated corpse?"

His latest mixtape is a free download so reconnect with Hip Hop
posted by Tuatara at 7:07 AM on July 23, 2009


God, Cadence Weapon is bullshit. I don't hold it against him that he's a Canadian named Rollie Pemberton, but his music sounds like it's made by a Canadian named Rollie Pemberton. I mean, fuck, dude, stanning for Edmonton's Poet Laureate? Dude's trifling good time music, making Lupe look hardcore.

That"Fun" hip-hop is only back with bapes-rockin' suburban consumerists—why not go all the way and rep for Asher Roth?
posted by klangklangston at 9:02 AM on July 23, 2009


So you probably think PaRappa the Rapper isn't hard. But: lead-based paint.
posted by kid ichorous at 9:19 AM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, thanks Mefi. Here I am, in 2009, just really starting to listen to Hip Hop (but not the shit on the radio, let's make that clear) for the first time since the early 90s, and I'm all planning to make an AskMe post asking for recs. Thanks for saving me the trouble.
posted by threeturtles at 2:36 PM on July 23, 2009


An incomplete list of people who have released great hip-hop albums/mixtapes in the last year or so: Georgia Anne Muldrow as Eagle Nebula, Mighty Underdogs, Jake One, Guilty Simpson, Akrobatik, Jazz Liberatorz, GZA, El Michels Affair, Nipsey Hustle, Finale, Exile, Del, Pete Rock, Paul Nice.
posted by box at 3:41 PM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Klang-- I respect you, but "I don't hold it against him that he's a Canadian named Rollie Pemberton, but his music sounds like it's made by a Canadian named Rollie Pemberton" is a load of stereotypical old-head shite. I'm no emo-rap fan, but CW is funky and funny and weird in a different but equally cool way that De La and Tribe was back in the 90s. No he's not hard. Yes he uses big words. No he doesn't sample the same tired scratchy funk records. But his albums are fancy and he rocks the fuck out live.

it's ok for there to be different types of hip-hop. it's ok to change what you like. give it a shot.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:43 PM on July 24, 2009


Immortal Technique.
posted by cashman at 5:47 PM on August 15, 2009


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